Just northwest of Piemonte, you begin your ascent into the Alpine, bilingual French-Italian region of Valle d’Aosta. Donnas is the the first subregion along the Dora Baltea river and the name of a small, high-quality cooperative made up of 23 hectares and about 20 members. It’s Alpine wine (1300-1700 ft) in the largest game of Shoots and Ladders, cum-Vines-and-Trellising , you’ve even seen. The terraced vineyards are hewn from the granite and quartz mountain sides. It’s Nebbiolo as a Harpsichord (instead of the Barolo as cello) — earthy, spicy wines that make you want to put your hiking boots on and scale a frozen waterfall.
This Alpine Gamay is from Italy’s northwest corner in Valle d’Aosta, so it speaks Italian and French, but there’s nothing Nouveau about Gamay in this valley: It was brought here a thousand years ago during the reign of the Dukes of Burgundy. The vineyards sit at 650-800 meters in the Alta Valle west of the city of Aosta. Soils are alluvial with glacial moraine. Hand-harvested grapes are macerated for eight days and then aged for eight months, all in stainless steel. The wine has a pretty, lightly floral nose with a palate of sour cherry and minerals. Drink it with barbecue or quaff it slightly chilled après-ski-hike-bike-work.
Wine is the mirror and soul of the earth, our territory, which is to be protected and defended as a faithful ally. The Rabajà di Bruno Rocca Company’s wines, made using grapes from land which has been expertly nurtured since the company’s outset, offer the perfect expression of this combination. Today's company has 15 hectares of vineyards that stretch for most of the town of Barbaresco in the heart of Rabajà, but also in the town of Neive Treiso and just where they purchased 4 acres in the area of Curra up to in Asti.
“Poderi e Cantine Oddero” is a historic name among Barolo producers (Estate & Winery since 1878). Run for generations by men, it is now in the hands of Mariacristina and Mariavittoria, the daughters of Giacomo Oddero, The company dedicates its full attention to the winemaking process, blending traditional ancient wisdom and modern production techniques with patience and tenacity: from the pruning of the vines to the pressing of the grapes, up to the ageing of selected vintages.
Antica Casa Scarpa
Antica Casa Vinicola Scarpa was founded by Antonio Scarpa* in 1854. Scarpa’s reputation was made beginning in the 1960s and 70s by Mario Pesce, whose father purchased the winery some years earlier. Mario was one of those souls who, while respecting the traditions and history of his region, was ambitious enough to think that they could do better – and specifically that the Monferrato could produce complex, age-worthy, and elegant wines. He spent time in Burgundy and Alsace studying French techniques in the vineyard and the cellar and used what he learned to experiment and develop more careful techniques in his own vineyards and cantina in the Monferrato. As a result of his uncompromising “innovation within tradition”, he came to be widely respected among wine producers throughout Piemonte, including by winemakers as diverse as Bruno Giacosa and Angelo Gaja.
All the vineyards are located in La Morra, in the little village of Santa Maria where the cellar, called Prima, is situated. Up to 1987 Viberti gave all the grapes to the local cooperative wine growers' association. The starting point of this great adventure is based on his parents’ values: respect for the land and the work linked to tradition. Viberti works personally in the vineyard and only uses organic soil. All the work is done by hand.
Malvirà was established in the 1950s by Giuseppe Damonte, at a time when the Roero’s potential was yet unrealized. In 1974, Roberto and Massimo took the reigns and began slowly turning the family’s bulk wine business into an Estate focusing on quality wine production. They recognized that great wines come from meticulously farmed Estate vineyards. Today, Malvirà’s wines are produced from Estate fruit, organically farmed across 104 acres and 6 vineyards. Over the years, they have been one of the most ardent proponents of the Arneis grape. 42 of their 104 acres are devoted to the propagation of Arneis.
The Roagna family makes their wines in a way that represents the vineyards' terroir and, most important, their own tastes. They aren't interested in creating a wine to please only the critics or the market. The people behind the bottlings could be called throwbacks. The burly Roagna is a third-generation winemaker. He and his wife, Marina, are the sum total of their operation, putting in 14-hour days at their recently refurbished winery in the Roero Hills, between Alba and Asti. Asked where they like to go for a vacation, Marina laughed and said through an interpreter, "I don't remember." The wines themselves, however, aren't old-school in the least. They are the end result of immaculate, state-of-the-art production facilities and methods. Each shows balance, concentrated red-fruit flavors and surprising nuance in their distinctive varietal styles.
The Correggia winery continues to set the pace for other wineries in the area, providing topics for discussion and food for thought. This is the way of things ever since the much-mourned Matteo showed just how much potential there was in an apparently marginal area. Today, Ornella and her exceptional staff is a champion of sustainable viticulture. Correggia's natural approach means working the land in the full awareness of the surrounding environment. It's another field in which Correggia is leading the way, sensibly and without ostentation.
The Tibaldi family was born and raised in the town of Pocapaglia, a village perched on a hill among the hills. A charming village, located in the heart of Roero, an area rich in history and legend, and dominated by a mighty medieval castle. Roero is a magical place, with a beauty that does not reveal itself unabashedly in the eyes of all but that seduces those who understand its charm and seek contact.
Vigna del Noce
This family estate is a Barbera specialist located in the Asti hills in the hamlet of Vianoce. The winery is based in the early nineteenth century complex of Agliano Terme, which has been in the family since the 1920s. The brothers, Secondo and Serafino began the winery at this time, and have passed on the reigns to their sons, Renato and Ezio. The winery now makes one of the longest-lived and most profound examples of Barbera to be found in all of Italy. The family believes that the underrated Barbera grape is a variety capable of producing wines of profound complexity and serious longevity, if cultivated from old vines in top sites and vinified to allow graceful evolution in bottle. With this in mind, they farm all of their vines organically and are extremely meticulous with their viticulture. Ezio is a close friend of Giampiero Bea of Paolo Bea in Montefalco, and the wines of both estates share a similar style and rustic soulfulness.
Cascina I Carpini
Based in the Piedmontese Tortona Hills, Cascina I Carpini focuses on producing wines using indigenous grapes. The winery takes a natural approach to their production. They studied their land carefully before executing a plan of planting grapes in the ideal soil conditions, they practice organic viticulture, with only native ferments without any additions. They bottle without filtration and minimal use of sulfur. The resulting wines are aged in the bottle until ready for release.
It’s hard not to get worked up about Walter Massa’s wines: He had a vision for a variety nobody wanted, worked in obscurity for years, rescued the grape, and doesn’t talk about himself but about the territory of Colli Tortonesi. When you get lost going there, start asking people 100 kilometers out; they all know and love him, from the gas station guy to the producer next door. Walter farms 22 hectares in eight distinct vineyard areas. Total production at Massa is about 13,000 cases, of which 5,000 is Timorasso. He produces amazing reds as well from the local grapes (Croatina, Barbera, Freisa, Nebbiolo).
La Mesma is a family business meticulously run by the three Rosina sisters: Paola, Francesca and Anna. The vineyard’s unique characteristics, as well as those of the local terrain, endow La Mesma Gavi with a myriad of distinctive, singular qualities. Hand-picking and careful selection ensure that only the best grapes are used and that same passionate care pervades every step of production, from harvest to soft pressing, to “in bianco” vinification at controlled temperatures in stainless steel vats. The resulting, limited production is distinguished by an elegant, fruity bouquet and a finely balanced, dry taste.
For four generations the Averoldi family has cultivated vineyards nestled in the scenic village of Cantrina, on the western edge of Lago di Garda, Brescia. They farm 15 hectares planted on loam and clay soils. They manually harvest their grapes, and their vinification techniques are traditional.
La Meridiana winery has been operative in the oil and wine sector for many generations and has always been a family-run business. Nowadays the cousins Fabio and Roberto, that brought a breath of fresh air and euphoria at productive level, manage the winery: nevertheless they are always assisted by their fathers Augusto and Fulvio, that have more than half a century of experience in this field. Thanks to the 10 hectares of vineyard that they personally grow in Valtenesi and in Lugana, they produce the classic Garda wines.
La Piotta was founded in 1985 by a family devoted to the world of wine for generations. The average age of the vines currently present is about 30 years, which allows the production of white wines with intense and persistent aromas and full-bodied, well-structured red wines. As a witness to their love for traditions and territory, nine rows of Pinot Grigio planted in 1930 still exist and produce. Over the years, the winery grew until it comprised 15 hectares of vineyards. The annual production is about 70,000 bottles and the entire production cycle, from the vine to the bottle, is personally taken care of by the Padroggi family.
The Carmina wine-making firm owned by the Alessandro Sacchetto family encompasses about 15 hectares (approximately 37 acres) of vineyards spread across the hills northeast of Conegliano, Italy, where grapevines have always offered their best and where in particular Prosecco wine has found its natural home. For over 20 years, the Carmina vineyards have been guaranteed the most enviable care and supervision: proper draining so as to insure the stability of the hilly ground itself, correct systemization of the crop, a choice of varieties and selection of the most suitable clones. All this careful supervision has as its end purpose a balanced yield per hectare in order to guarantee the wine an especially superior quality. As wine-makers, we have equipped ourselves with the most advanced technology in order to safeguard and improve the features, typicality and quality of wine products prepared in limited amounts and thus intended for a highly knowledgeable clientele.
Le Vigne di Alice
Sisters-in-law Cinzia Canzian and Pier Francesca Bonicelli started Alice in 2004 to fulfill their dream of bottling artisanal Prosecco thatʼs all their own: estate fruit, pre-Dolomite, grower Prosecco. Cinzia logged 15 years at her and Francesca’s husbands’ famous winery Bellenda. She also worked at the official Prosecco Consortium of Treviso, an experience that allowed her the rare privilege of years of tasting the range of sparkling wines made by the areaʼs producers. Francesca studied at Italyʼs oldest school of enology in nearby Conegliano; she has vast experience as a local enologist, which is quite different from being an expert Italian enologist. She knows her local grapes and how to vinify and bubble them. Alice, named after Cinziaʼs grandmother, has in just a few years become a rising star.
Rubinelli Vajol only produces numbered bottles of the Valpolicella classical wines: amarone, ripasso, valpolicella. All of their wines feature the five native grapes of Valpolicella classical: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Oseleta. The polyphony of flavours and aromas of the five local vine varieties are safeguarded exclusively in large oak barrels from France and Slavonia. During the long period of refinement these barrels lend just the right balance of wood, preserving and exalting the intense full-bodied aromas of these fruits of the land.
Villa San Carlo
Villa San Carlo is situated east of the city of Verona, on a Western facing hillside of the ancient village of Montorio. Gianni "Babbo" Pavesi farms 20 hectares with 1/3 planted to vines. The terraced vineyards are at altitudes that start from 100 meters and rise to 270 meters above sea level. The property is planted with olive groves and is surrounded by woodlands, creating superb biodiversity. They take a traditional and natural approach to vinification. The grapes are hand harvested at optimal ripeness and air dried on special racks in their drying chambers. This is family run estate continues to be one of the sources of fruit for Dal Forno and only recently started producing their own wine.
Corte Sant’Alda’s owner, Marinella Camerani, is a bit of an outsider in Valpolicella. She took over her family farm in 1985 and immediately began the conversion to certified organic. Not long after, she began working biodynamically, and the vineyards are now certified by Demeter. She and her partner, Cesar, work 21 hectares of vineyards at 400 meters on red and white limestone (Scala Rossa Veneta and Biancone) in the upper reaches of the Val di Mezzane. Their aim is to produce toothsome bottlings of Soave and Valpolicella, but also fresh and savory versions of Ripasso, Amarone, and Recioto. Marinella is a a force of nature; as serious as she is about her vineyards and wines (and the cherry jam that she cans), she’s also full of wit, a straight shooter about natural wines, and not afraid of holding court with the best of the armchair prophets and naysayers in her area and beyond.
Schiopetto is a leading light of the wine industry in Friuli, the most eastern region of Italy’s north. He began in the 1960’s making new and highly controversial wines that would eventually inspire the entire Italian wine industry. Mario Schiopetto's name is associated with the top revolutionary winemakers such as Giacomo Bologna, Angelo Gaia and Sergio Manetti of Montevertine. These producers literally ushered in a new era of Italian wine. In fact he maintains a cult status in Italy as well as abroad. The wines are fresh, clean and complex expressions of fruit.
Forchir was founded at the beginning of the last century in Felettis di Bicinicco, making it one of the oldest winemaking estates in Friuli. Gianfranco Bianchini is determined to make quality wines with "Terroir,” a unique interaction of the vine with the environment; a condition that cannot be duplicated in other areas. The unique soil and climate allow the vines to express their full potential. The vines are cultivated with the lowest environmental impact and winemaking takes place without using any sulfur dioxide.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Emilia, the land of Lambrusco, has a revolution brewing (or fermenting, often in bottle). After too many years of industrially-produced mediocrity, Emilia is now home to a small but growing cell of artisanal producers who are farming carefully and returning to the metodo ancestrale of their grandfathers: secondary fermentation in the bottle, without disgorgement. Denny Bini is one of the humble heroes of this renaissance-revolution. He makes 6000 bottles per year from a single hectare of organically-farmed vineyards. Denny also makes a Lambrusco dell’Emilia (a.k.a. the Festa! Label) from practicing organic vineyards from family and friends.
The part of Romagna where Mariotti is from is a laid back beach area, where locals eat grilled flat-bread sandwiches called piadina romagnola, and slosh back the frothy frizzante. In fact, Mariotti’s wines are named after local card games! Instead of charmat, he produces old-school bottle fermented (rifermentato in bottiglia) wines out the native grapes Trebbiano Romagnolo, and a rare red called Fortana – a savoury wild thing with high acid and a black cherry or wild strawberry notes depending on vintage; it also has a bitter vermouth-like spice to it. Since the vines are grown in sand (Beach Vines! Beach Wines!), they are non-grafted and on their own native rootstock (It. piede franco).
Bissoni is a small winery which was born from the greatest and ancient mankind's passion: getting the best from the earth while respecting nature and environment. This has been their aim since they started growing vines in 1988, when Bissoni bought a farm named Colecchio located just opposite the hill of Bertinoro; 12 hectares on a wonderful natural terrace where vines and olive trees have been grown ever since Roman times. This area, where in the past the excavations brought to light several prehistoric flints as well as many Roman objects, has always been called "Casticciano", from the Latin "Castricius".
San Biagio Vecchio
Cantina San Biagio Vecchio is a small artisinal producer focused on farming indigenous grapes local to Emilia Romagna. Their winery takes an organic and natural approach to both viticulture and vinification.
Riecine was originally owned by a nearby monastery until the 20th century, in fact the church archives from 1112 A.D. provide the earliest known record of the wine farm called Riecine. Since 2011 Riecine has been family-owned and led by Lana Frank. The family is strongly committed to maintain the philosophy of Riecine and to provide everything necessary for Riecine team to produce the great wines from the terroir, and is totally focused on quality aspects of all operations in the vineyards and cantina.
La Querce Seconda
La Querce Seconda is a small, organic Chianti Classico estate that is located between San Casciano Val di Pesa and Montespertoli in the northernmost corner of the DOCG region, an area noted for its freshness. Niccolo Bernabei is the second generation of his winemaking family, and in 1995, he and Linda Sandkvist took the project to a more serious level. Their property stretches for about 45 hectares, covering untouched forests, olive orchards, a lovely agritourismo, and naturally farmed vineyards. Niccolo and Linda are devoted to using only Sangiovese in their Chianti and the couple exert continual effort in maintaining the soil in order to make sure the vines express the terroir of the area. With only naturally occurring yeasts, extremely low sulfur practices, and very old and large oak use; the expression they can achieve from their beautifully cared for vines is extraordinary.
The Pacenti estate was established in 1970, with the purchase of the property north of Montalcino (Pelagrilli) by Siro, who then proceeded to plant some important vineyards, which are still there today, in the fresh, clay soils of the land overlooking Siena. In 1988, management passed into the hands of Giancarlo. This was the year of the harvest in which Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino Siro Pacenti were bottled for the first time.
In 1991 Giovanni Marotti Campi started a major renovation project of the vineyards , rationalizing the production with a focus on the two most typical grapes of the area, Verdicchio and Lacrima di Morro d’Alba. After a succesful careeer as manager his passion for this land and for the family Estate drove him to build the new winery in 1999 and along with his wife Francesca and his son Lorenzo decided to bring new life and energies to this place. Today Giovanni still manages the Estate along with Lorenzo and Francesca.
The vineyards are on top of a Jurassic-period raised sea bed, near saltwater springs called le salse (from sale / salt.) The high altitude of the raised valley (450 meters), its north-south orientation, and the distance inland from the sea combine to block off the tempering coastal influence and result in large day / night temperature differences.
Borgo Paglianetto, with its 25 hectares, lies on the hills of Matelica in a closed valley , the so-called Alta Valle dell' Esino, representing the only case in the Marche region for its unusual North-South orientation, fundamental factor contributing to the creation of that microclimate that allows the cultivation of grapes of the highest quality. Thanks to all these conditions it is possible to obtain a wine with a solid structure but capable, at the same time, of maintaining freshness, depth and balance. The reduction of chemical products and the low content of sulphites represent a pivotal goal for the company: the peculiarities of terroir, the climate and man's work strongly contribute to improving the quality of our wines.
Raìna is the project of Francesco Mariani, chef and vine grower in Montefalco, Umbria. He makes wines from biodynamic grapes togethet with his friend and assistant Andrea Mattioli. “Raìna" was the nickname of the previous owner of the field where they planted the first of their Sagrantino vines. They continuously work to avoid passively exploiting our environment, and at the same time, to enhance it, ensuring the protection and renewal of natural resources.
Marco is a naturalista in Umbria, just outside of Perugia, in a town called the House of the Devil (Casa del Diavolo). He has taken over various high-altitude vineyards around him that have a mix of native grapes such as Grechetto, Malvasia, Verdicchio, Moscato, Trebbiano, and Sangiovese. His cellar is filled with re-conditioned small cement tanks – the kinds that farmers would use for home production – except Marco has dozens of them, so he can follow each parcel per tank up to bottling. The wines are a bit of eco-chic rustic, with punchy acidity and just a touch of fruit.
Luigi Tecce's 4ha wine estate is located 550 metres high among Campania's Irpinian hills on the border of the Castelfanci & Paternopoli villages on calcareous rocky soils overlain with a smattering of volcanic dust. The area is famous for producing fine wines from the Aglianico grape that is then vinified as Taurasi DOCG. Since 1997 Luigi's been bottling the fruit from his oldest, 80 year old vines (trees!) from Paternopoli as the damsen fruited Taurasi DOCG, while nearby younger Castelfranci vines provide the juice for his earlier drinking, racy raspberry fruited Campitaursini DOC.
Fiore Cecere and Carmine Iannaccone are two local childhood friends whose paths came together again in 2012. Well-dressed Campanian men that they are, they are bringing a sartorial care and precision to one and a half hectares of Greco in their native Santa Paolina. The winery, Le Ormere (ORM-a-ray), is local dialect for the centenarian field elm trees that look over the vineyard. Many producers blend Greco from different sub-zones around Tufo; Le Ormere is one of just a few wineries that is a making a single sub-zone wine, in the grand cru of Santa Paolina.
Nicola Venditti is both an enologist and the very incarnation of a contadino (farmer). The vineyards have been in the family for over 400 years — thus the “antica” part of Antica Masseria — and he is deeply passionate about his territory of Sannio, adjacent to better-known Taurasi. Nicola eschews oak and kneels at the altar of steel, thus letting all of the wines really show the clean and distinct fruit of their native grapes (some of which only he cultivates). His cantina is squeaky clean, and he gladly whistles out pH and acid levels for those inclined. This humanist-techno-geek approach, he explains, is a combination of the humanity of ancient methods and local varieties, together with the rationality offered by technology.
A long family tradition characterizes the history of Polvanera, founded in 2002 through the determination of its owner and oenologist Filippo Cassano. He has always been well aware of the potential of his territory and its typical grapes. Thanks to his father’s skills in viticulture and his own traning at “Basile Caramia” School of Agriculture in Locorotondo, Filippo decided to bet on pure vinification, a process that enhances the peculiar characteristics of both vines and terroir. Located between Acquaviva delle Fonti and Gioia del Colle, Polvanera is surrounded by a singular countryside, with typical dry stone walls, downy oaks and vineyards.
The vineyards of Cardedu are in the area of Ogliastra, the most mountainous and least populous province on the island; a land of turquoise shimmer and ragged-dry cliffs. Here on the southeast coast of Sardegna the Loi family grows and makes wines from the native varieties Vermentino, Cannonau, and Monica. Alberto Loi is one of the island’s better-known traditional producers. The Loi family doesn’t think of itself as a natural wine producer; yet all wines are fermented with native yeasts, and there’s dry farming without use of herbicides or pesticides.
Mount Etna is a current darling of the Italian wine scene, and I Custodi is among the 21st-century Etna Renaissance producers who are now making wines as compelling as the active volcano’s cooled lava flows. Founder Mario Paoluzi has teamed up with Etna guru Salvo Foti and I Vigneri, the local vineyard workers who tend the ancient albarello vines, and volcanic terracing. The Etna Rosso ‘Pistus’ (mostly Nerello Mascalese) comes from Etna’s north slope, where the wines are known to be structured and savoury. In 1774, the Florentine scholar Sestini called them ‘navigabile’ or ship-worthy, keeping after long voyages. Don’t miss 150+ year old-vines mostly-Nerello cru ‘Aetneus.’ The racy Etna Bianco ‘Ante’ (mostly Carricante) comes from 1200- meter high vineyards on the sea-influenced eastern slopes; raw fish come alive with this wine. ‘Alnus’ is the traditional ‘pista e mutta’ (press and rack) Etna rosato. Organic.
Ciràsa was founded nearly 20 years ago near the tiny town of Camporeale, 20 miles southwest of Palermo. The winery is devoted to organic agriculture, biodiversity and local social engagement. The vineyards are located on the windy hillsides outside of Camporeale at 1,000-1,650 feet altitude. The vines are organically and dry farmed, with the vineyards grassed over and never plowed. No chemicals are used (pesticides, fertilizers, additives, etc). The harvest is done by hand into 30-pound boxes and carefully delivered to the winery to avoid loss of juice due to crushing.